As rivalry with Samsung and Google intensifies, all eyes are on iTV

Here’s the latest on the Apple television front: it will certainly be announced in the next three years and it will look like, well, something. But whenever and whatever Apple unveils, rivals are sure to copy it. So says venture capitalist, the founder of Netscape and one of the early architects of the web, Marc Andreessen.

Andreessen, who sits on the board of Facebook and HP, is just the latest voice in what’s become a deafening roar of rumor, leaks and knowledgeable guesses surrounding talk that Apple will get into the television business. Somehow. Sometime…

Although he described Apple as a “vault” when it comes to information about the company’s plans, apparently quite a few people are giving out the combination, reports Yahoo News.

Along with Andreessen, the Wall Street Journal Wednesday is reporting that Apple is testing TV designs from Asian suppliers. Like Andreesen’s remarks, the WSJ story is so full of wiggle-room as to resemble jello.

“Apple could opt not to proceed with the device…how a large-screen TV fits with its overall strategy for remaking watching TV remains unclear”, reporters Lorraine Luk and Jessica Lessin write.

Ironically, as Fortune notes, the story comes on the one-year anniversary of the WSJ reporting that Apple was building its own HD TV Set with streaming video (or upgrading the Apple TV box).

The venture capitalist Andreessen also warned that whenever Apple unveils a full-blown television set or another set-top box, plenty of rivals will be taking notes.

He remarked:

There’s a pattern in our industry, Apple crystallizes the product and the minute Apple crystallizes it, then everyone knows how to compete.

Only yesterday, analyst Katy Huberty said consumers were willing to pay a 20 percent premium if Apple introduced an easier-to-use Internet-connected smart TV set.

Although her argument that concentrating on the television’s user interface would avoid the tangled content-licensing jungle, others view such talk as just “an enduring fantasy”.

While Apple is likely to enter the television market at some point, credible details provided by people willing to go on the record are nearly non-existent. It is only human to try to fill that vacuum.

After all, that is largely Apple’s publicity strategy around any product.

Build up the buzz, get people talking and no matter what is finally released, will be met with overwhelming demand. Take the iPhone, the iPad and just rinse and repeat with the iTV.

What is concerning about the latest round of speculation is that it operates in an echo chamber, where the message bounces from Wall Street player, to Wall Street investor to consumer and back.

The majority of the predictions are coming from Wall Street investment houses where talk of an Apple TV is akin to kids on Christmas Eve with sugar plums (or iTVs) dancing in their heads.

It is a tactic older than dirt (fortunately, some of us covering finances are older than dirt.

Want consumers to stop talking about the Apple sell-off, change the subject to, oh, an Apple television set.